Saturday, April 24, 2021

‘Erzya Can Survive a Pandemic but Not Conditions in Russia,’ Ezrya Elder Tells UN Body

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 21 – Balayen Syres, the chief elder of the Erzya nation in the Middle Volga, told the 20th session of the UN’s Permanent Forum on Indigenous Peoples today that his people, one of the Finno-Ugric nations Moscow has tried to amalgamate into the Mordvin nation “can survive a coronavirus pandemic but cannot survive in the Russian Federation.”

            Syres, who was forced to emigrate after his election as elder ( and now lives in Ukraine, told the group that his nation’s only hope for survival is “international pressure on Moscow capable of protecting us from the final phase of ethnocide” (эрзянский-лидер-выступил-в-оон-с-обвин/).

            In a speech in his national language which was translated into English and broadcast on the UN’s web television network, Syres said that “over the last 30 years, the Erzya have been reduced from a nation of a million people into a small ethnic group at the brink of extinction, something that has happened without wars or epidemics and forced deportations.”

            According to the Erzya activist, “out neighbors in the Idel-Ural region are now in a similar position: the Moksha, the Udmurts, the Mari, the Chuvash, the Bashkirs and even the Tatars.” None of them can have their own political parties, universities, or schools in their native languages.

            Syres’ appearance at the UN forum is only the latest example of his reaching out to the international community about the fate of his people, a Finno-Ugric nation that has typically received little attention but that is drawing support from Ukraine as well as the three Finno-Ugric countries now independent ( and

            But his words call attention to the increasingly complex ethnic game in Mordvinia, whose three main ethnic groups, the Moksha and the Erzya, whose division Moscow alternatives between support and opposition and the ethnic Russians are increasingly in conflict (, and

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